• Transform magazine
  • February 29, 2024

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AI inspo and the future of font pairing

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Terrance Weinzierl, creative director at Monotype, discusses how AI can transform the daily workflow of designers by providing fresh, informed inspiration in font pairings, and how it aids the speed and quality of font combinations while inspiring designers to be more creative.

Decisions, decisions, decisions. In a world of almost infinite choice, making design decisions can be... hard. Too much choice can lead to procrastination, indecision, even creative block. We’ve all been there.

When we look at AI, one of its biggest strengths is the ability to digest incomprehensibly vast amounts of information and re-present back the best options according to parameters set by the user. That’s true for copy - see the incredible rise of ChatGPT - and it’s also true for other creative choices.

One of the most common creative choices that designers must make on a daily basis is font pairing.

Pairing typefaces gives designers a way to fine-tune a brand’s tone of voice. Take for example a brand’s typical type workhorse - a readable, accessible but somewhat impersonal sans family that’s well suited to handle most of the brand’s type duties. By pairing it with a handwriting typeface, a designer can create a more relaxed and fluid voice. Paired with a rounded sans, and the brand voice feels more friendly. Creating these unique typeface unions allows designers to flex the voice while staying on brand.

Choosing the right mix of typefaces has until now been an art and a practice. Most designers develop from experience a sixth sense of which pairings will work and which won’t, and the design community is awash with recommendations and knowledge sharing. That’s a wonderful thing.

However, with the number of typefaces available continually growing and the need of brands to stay fresh, handpicking font pairings becomes ever more challenging. How to avoid returning to the same old trusted pairings you’ve used time and time before? How to incorporate the creative magic of serendipitous discovery without getting lost in a never-ending sea of font options? How to avoid FOMO - that sense you might have missed the best option?

Typefaces can come alive when paired well. As designers, we implicitly know when we’ve hit the perfect combo, and when we haven’t. We also know when we’ve spent far too long on making this decision.

Here’s where Artificial Intelligence can transform this everyday workflow, providing fresh, informed inspiration. At Monotype, we’ve developed AI algorithms to increase the depth and breadth of font pairing suggestions. Our font pairing AI engine is trained on tens of thousands of typefaces and real-world design decisions made by designers. It makes generating font pairing suggestions more accessible and more integrated.

For this first version, we focused the AI training on sans and serif typefaces that had similar features and structure - these are described as ‘harmonious pairs’. Future versions might include a wider variety of typeface suggestions from more contrasting typeface genres.

It’s typography, technology and expertise in a single click!

Including the AI engine in your workflow involves selecting your brand’s primary font choice. Using this as the jumping off point, the AI engine reveals options that a designer may not have contemplated before. The tool provides inspiration and insight into the art of font pairing while aiding the speed and quality of font combinations.

Wherever AI is deployed, not far behind comes the worry that this technology will somehow replace humans. My firm belief, having incorporated AI font pairing into my work, is that AI can inspire designers to be more creative. It helps us get to those all-important “aha!” moments that bit quicker. Just as Photoshop and Illustrator helped unleash new creative potential in the early 90s, I believe a new wave of AI-enabled design tools is going to redefine the art of the possible.

Working with the engine, I’ve seen exceptional, exciting, powerful pairings generated that I would not have chosen by name or found - even with hours of manual search. It’s brought to my practice a new kind of creative serendipity, but one informed by good design, not by chance.